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Bureau of Mental Health Formed

“The Bureau of Mental Health shall be responsible for the direction of the mental health programs in the institutions within the department and shall be responsible for the promotion and guidance of mental health programs within the several communities of the State.” All institutions were included under this new department, including Pineland.

Text of Public Law 1959 Chapter 360 An Act Providing for Mental Health Services
Public Law 1959 Chapter 360 An Act Providing for Mental Health Services
Newspaper clipping from the Lewiston Daily Sun, January 31, 1961 – Headline: Mental Health Bureau Inaugurated by State
Lewiston Daily Sun, January 31, 1961
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Institutional Bias

Institutional Bias

It is easy to assume that institutions are the right place for people with significant needs – in an institution, the assumption is that we can keep them “safe”, provide all the care they need in one place, and people with disabilities can live with “people like them”. These assumptions were worked into the policies and laws until the systems and the biases were intertwined and interchangeable.

Despite the evidence that institutions do not provide better care, a more stimulating environment, or less expensive treatment options than the community, our systems still reflect the historical assumptions that built them. When asked if people would like to live in the community they sign a waiver from their right to an institution.  The “institutional bias” is imbedded within the current waiver system – how most people with developmental disabilities access services – makes getting good and services in the community harder.  For that matter, the “institutional bias” includes an unwritten value statement that people with developmental disability do not have a natural place within the community.  But is that true?  Doesn’t everyone have a place?

More troubling still, many organizations are beginning to look towards building new institutions, using very similar language to that of the early 1900’s. They point towards the failures of the community system as proof that we need large congregate settings for people with developmental disabilities.

What are the assumptions here?